I am getting more and more excited about Nicholas Taleb’s coming book, Skin in the Game. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Taleb, he is the author of Antifragile – Things that gain from disorder. I consider that book to be a must read for anyone who is serious about attempting to live their life in an individual manner. In other words, go and buy it now, noobfaces.
Taleb is releasing chapters from his new book on Medium. I don’t know if this is to drum up interest or to get feedback. I doubt that it is to get feedback as Taleb always seems to be a few steps in front of everyone else. His latest chapter release is titled Real life is risk taking.
Because, to repeat, life is sacrifice and risk taking, and nothing that doesn’t entail some moderate amount of the former, under the constraint of satisfying the latter, is close to what we can call life. If you do not undertake a risk of real, reversible or even potentially irreversible, harm from an adventure, it is not an adventure.
I keep getting feedback from people that the interview I did on The Dingoes podcast last month was my most interesting thus far, and I think that was primarily because the main host and I disagreed so much with each other. Nothing is worse than listening to a bunch of people who spend the entire time agreeing with each others opinions. Our main disagreement centered around the idea that young people in Australia are screwed with regards to house pricing. This is certainly true in the main cities of Sydney and Melbourne, but when I suggested that young people should just move across the country to where there was cheaper housing this elicited a wave of protest from the hosts.
Apparently this was “too hard” for the average young person, and the only reason that I had successfully achieved this feat back when I was young was because I came from a wealthy family. I pointed out that when I had arrived in Cairns over twenty years ago I had only a hundred dollars to my name, but they waved away this information as it did not conform to their narrative.
I can honestly say that I was taken aback at this attitude to relocating, but on reflection I had to admit that it is just something that I have always been prepared to do. My mistake was assuming the same capacity in others, but when I examine my peers from that age there were very few of us who struck out on our own.
Now I am once again about to move across the world. Will it work out the way I hope? I’m not sure. I think there is every chance that it will go well but you can never be certain of these things. It is a risk but life is risk taking, and when you put this much skin in the game the rewards can be greater than anything that you can imagine. The whole point about my first book is that I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was taking enormous risks but that meant that I had skin in the game. When you don’t know how things are going to turn out then you open up the possibility of being surprised by circumstances. It can be a good or bad surprise but it is a surprise nonetheless.
The real point of all this is not that you can only gain surprises and risk by adventuring. You can gain surprises and risk by simply staying in your home town and having a normal life, but in that case the surprises and adventures will be involuntary. Those surprises will be forced upon you by circumstances outside of your control, such as the main employer in your little town going broke and shutting up shop. Now everyone has a surprise and adventure but nobody asked for it.
This is crucial to understand. The vast majority of people will inevitably get surprises and risk, but the people who go out and actively look for it are doing it on their terms. In other words, purposeful risk takers are antifragile. They benefit from adversity. Whereas stay at home people are fragile. They suffer from unforeseen events because they have spent their entire lives trying to avoid them.
If the vast majority of people are not moving to seek better alternatives then that is even more reason to do so yourself. The vast majority of people in the world are not going to read this post. The vast majority of people who read this post are not going to take a risk. Do you see how it works?
It’s better to get out there and forge a path for yourself when it is on your own terms. When such a condition is forced upon you by circumstance it is far more difficult to profit from such a situation. Last week the major employer in the Latrobe Valley here in Victoria, the Hazlewood power station, closed down due to government malfeasance. I bet that a great number of people in small towns such as Traralgon will soon find things “too hard”. They are now experiencing a fair amount of risk after such an unwelcome surprise. And since they are fragile in the face of such an event it probably won’t go well for the majority of them. But they are now living real life. They had skin in the game all along, they just may have not realised it.
So go out and get an adventure before an adventure gets you.